It is a feeling of déjà vu, coming rather from a place of fluffy political calculations than a plausible, defensible legal poise with some precision and exactitude. Call it a hogwash or a display of some irascible thoughts, you won’t be mistaken. But whichever way, it is intrinsically fueled up by ego. And by every conceivable stance, such sentiments are just some pious claptrap.
Yes, it is a familiar terrain. Everyone knew about the matter when it first came up. That was just after the 2019 general elections. And at the end, it wasn’t worth the time, money and energy dissipated in the legal fireworks. Yet, in 2023, the travesties are here again. This time, they took another route, a more dramatic dimension, manifesting through some political lackeys. So vile in hate and aggressions, they decided to dust the well rested issue and subsumed it in a petition brought before the National Assembly Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the Abia State capital.
Now, rather than contesting his victory at the polls, they took a dive into infamy, ignominy and ingloriousness where they may eventually earn themselves the sobriquet of middle-some interlopers.
Of course, they know that contesting the election of Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu who represents Bende federal constituency of Abia State will be a futile exercise. They know he beat them in the elections fair and square. And so, they chose the unsavory path of challenging the process of his name change, a matter which had long been laid to rest by an Umuahia High Court in 2021.
Incidentally, the candidate of the Action Alliance (AA), Ifeanyi Igbokwe was innocuously drafted into the legal charade but recently, he came to terms with the reality and the truth and swiftly dissociated himself from the matter, saying he was impersonated. Washing off his hand, Igbokwe said he never authorized or filed any suit against Kalu at the tribunal.
For him, the emergence of Kalu as the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives was one development of gaiety for Ndigbo of the south east and so, his election should not in any be challenged whether directly or indirectly by any sane person.
For most if not all the south easterners, Kalu’s position as the number 6 citizen in the political hierarchy of Nigeria is exciting and has conspicuously signposted the political renaissance of Ndigbo from oblivion.
Read Igbokwe: “I was at home drinking my tea and watching the news until someone called me to inform me that I had a case in court against the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon Benjamin Kalu. So, I was surprised that people were calling me from my own place and constituency telling me about the court case. I accepted the results from the elections, accepted defeat, an said to God be the glory.
“Now, I am shocked that someone is even representing me. This is my poster and this is my voter’s card, this is my party card so how come somebody is representing me and I didn’t know anything about it?
“Even my lawyer is surprised also. When we heard it, we were like ah! ah! see Rt. Hon Ben that we are all rejoicing for his new position and I am telling people that he is my brother from Bende. So why will I start fighting my own brother?
“We have gone to court, sworn every affidavit and we are writing to DSS and the IG of Police because I want to know the person impersonating me. I want to clear my name first. I want to tell people of Abia state and Bende that I accept defeat and I want to tell Deputy Speaker that I am not fighting him. I don’t know the person impersonating me but I will fish him out and come back to inform you people”.
But while Igbokwe now smiles with his brother, one Frank Chinasa of the Labour Party (LP) who contested the election with Kalu wouldn’t budge on the matter. He appears to be the arrow head of the mischievousness. But obviously, his ignorance on the process of matters of name change in Nigeria speaks volumes.
For purposes of recapitulation, the court in 2021 agreed that there is only one and same Benjamin Okezie Kalu. In 2019, when one Okay Ezeala brought the matter to the court, it failed to yield to moral, legal and philosophical reasoning. Instead, a fine was awarded against him for filing a frivolous matter as he could not prove his case at the end of the legal voyage.
On 25th of August 2021, Justice O. A Chijioke of Umuahia High Court read his judgement in favour of Kalu, declaring that the laws with regards to the processes involved in the change of name were fully followed considering the verifiable documentary evidence before him.
He said: “Having held that documents were not certified, they are mere photocopies of public documents which are not admissible in evidence. The end result is that there is no document in support of the case of the claimant. Infact no evidence at all.
“Assuming the documents were certified, the claimant would not have done better. This is because the documents were just dumped in court. The claimant’s counsel did not link his argument with any of the document or demonstrate the relevance of the various document. The court is not an investigator who will peruse more than 20 pages of documents and arrange them in the order they should be and draw conclusions. For example, in what page of the document is the elementary six Certificate of the 1st defendant? What page is his NYSC Certificate? Claimant’s counsel failed to demonstrate this. Therefore, the claimant has no case. There is no iota of evidence to support the allegation of forgery.
“Counsel for the claimant had submitted that the 1st defendant submitted three Certificates bearing different names from that of the claimant. Assuming that the claimant had presented relevant evidence before the court, the documents presented by the 1st defendant for his change of names have resolved the issue. The st defendant has shown by the documents presented by him that all the Certificates and documents he submitted to INEC relate to him and alone. The claimant did not produce any other person who claims to be the owner of the certificates. It is he who alleges that proves. The claimant therefore failed woefully to prove his case.
“This case is calculated to irritate and distract the 1st defendant. The claimant did not bring this suit for any manifest benefit that will accrue to him. He brought it to seek benefit for the person he said had higher number of votes at the election won by the 1st defendant. It was on that premise that Chima Anyaso who contested the election brought an application to be joined to the suit as a co-defendant and which application was rejected by this court. Chima Anyaso, from the counter-affidavit filed in opposition to his application for joinder, challenged the election of the 1st defendant at the Election Petition Tribunal and Election Petition Appeal Tribunal and lost. It was the senior counsel for the claimant who appeared for the said Chima Aayaso in the application for joinder and when that application failed he became the lead counsel for the claimant. Could it be that we are seeing the hand of Esau and hearing the voice of Jacob in this case? Whatever it is, initiating a suit in the High Court to seek the disqualification of an elected official after he had gone through the rigours of litigation at the relevant Tribunals after his election is an abuse.
“From all I have stated above, I hereby dismiss this suit. Counsel for the 1st defendant asks for N2,000,000.00 costs. Counsel for the 3rd defendant asks for N5O0,000.00 as costs. Counsel for the clamant prays the court to be lenient in awarding costs.
“I award costs assessed at 100,000 against the claimant in favour of the Ist defendant. I also award costs at N50,000 against the claimant in favour of the 3rd defendant.”
Now, for those whose ink flows from the point of crass idiocy, inducements and mischief, sarcastically seeking to know what name the deputy speaker bears, here comes the answer: It is Benjamin Okezie Kalu. He has since become the toast of Ndigbo in general.
It is rather unfortunate that it’s only in the south eastern region of Ndigbo that some men thought to have courted some integrity at their old age would be recruited to unabashedly promote journalistic mercantilism even when the truth starred them in the face. They ought to know better and write better without traces of innuendos and infantile dispositions that apparently portray them as minions and co-travellers, or even pun in the hands of their paymasters. Obviously, they must have been affronted by Kalu’s growing political antecedents.
But then, here comes an information for them. Sooner than later, their evil plots and machinations will hit the rocks as the deputy speaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu will smile home to victory, once again, at the tribunal.
Nwabughiogu is the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the deputy speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu